Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Blog

Programs Taught In English in the ROC

Here is a link to the original post

In a recent post by Michael Turton, he advocates considering one of the many international MBA programs that are now developing in Taiwan. He is not alone in doing so. If you look to the left column of Taiwan’s MOE webpage, you’ll see this link to a document entitled “Programs Taught in English”. I advocate caution in making such a choice. While there are programs of extremely high quality available in Taiwan, one should not accept the MOE’s word at face value.

Some of the programs listed in the MOE’s document are first-class. For example, the International MBA program offered by National Cheng Kung University is world-class. The faculty includes Clyde Warden, a frequent visitor to this blog, as well a number of other internationally-renowned business scholars. At Ming Chuan University, we offer bachelor degrees taught entirely in English through our International College. While the quality of this degree does not approach National Cheng Kung, they are taught entirely in English.

On the other hand, some of the other programs listed in the document are not only not taught in English, the departments themselves seem to have no idea that they are supposed to be offering such programs. Let me tell the story of how I found this out.

If you open this document and scroll down to National Chiao Tung University, you’ll find that they have listed there a Doctoral Program in Taiwan Studies. Back in April, I contacted the e-mail that is listed on the MOE’s website and got this reply,

Dear Scott Sommers,

Thank you for your email.

I am sorry to tell you about we don’t have the Ph.D program of Taiwan Studies. Maybe you can consider other major.

Best Regards,

Secretary, Hsuan Tsai

I was eventually told to contact Ms. Yi-Fang Cheng, which I did. I sent her this mail,

Dear Ms. Yi-Fang Cheng,

I found the address of your school and program on the ROC Ministry of Education listing of graduate programs in Taiwan that are taught in English. I am interested in finding out more information about the International Graduate Studies Program in Taiwan Studies. In particular, I would like to clarify the following points,

1. The program is a doctoral program.

2. Instruction is accessible to students with limited Mandarin ability.

Scott Sommers.

She wrote me back with this reply,

Dear Scott,

We would be happy to know you are interested in this program, but I am sorry to tell you about your points.

1.This program is graduate program, not doctoral program exactly.

2.We strongly recommend it would be much better for students to have the basic Mandarin ability of listening and speaking. If you have any other questions about this program, you can contact us by E-Mail again. Thanks for your inquiry.



You can understand my dismay at this, so I wrote back for clarification.

Dear Hsuan Tsai,

The MOE website

which is entitled Programs Taught in English lists National Chiao Tung University as having a Doctoral Degree in the International Graduate Program of Taiwan Studies. Is this information is incorrect?


She wrote me back with this reply,

Dear Scott,

I am so sorry to tell you there is some wrong information in this website. I will check all information to correct it. We don’t have PhD. degree in the program of Taiwan Studies. If you are really interested to study this program, my suggestion is you may consider to apply the Department of Social Research and Cultural Studies. Then you can take those course of Taiwan Studies.

Please feel free contact me.

Best Regards,

Secretary, Hsuan Tsai

But as you can see, the same information is still up on the MOE website.

My experience with programs taught in English does not end here. A Taiwanese professor at Ming Chuan University told me that she had spoken to the chairman of a department in a major National University about studying in English at his school. Their program is not listed on the MOE document, so I won’t mention it by name here. But the Chair told her that he did offer enough courses in his department to accommodate non-Mandarin speaking candidates and asked her to get me to write directly to him. I did this, and here is his reply,

Dear Scott:

Thank you for your letter and your interest in our institute. You may find some useful information about our Ph.D. program at http://www.XXXXX.  Most courses are offered in Chinese. If your Chinese is not good enough, you may have some difficulties in picking up what professors’ give in classes. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.



In the MOE document, Ming Chuan University is listed as having a number of programs taught in English. While it is true that the International College offers a complete degree that can be taken solely in English, I am not so certain about the other programs. I believe they refer to the fact that there are a number of courses in these departments that are offered in English. Some of the courses it refers to may even be specialty classes intended to introduce English technical vocabulary to students. Language teachers would be more likely to call them ESP classes. I teach in the Department of Applied English, and even there, it would be extremely difficult to finish even a graduate degree solely in English.

I suspect the root of this distortion is pressure on the universities to report that they have such resources available. Schools, government agencies, even hospitals, are under intense pressure to ‘internationalize’ in the sense that Michael Turton once described the term, ie; how well you can use English. It appears that some of these institutions are under so much pressure that they would even make up information concerning their abilities.

It is possible to get very good schooling in English at a Taiwanese university. As time goes on, this is more and more likely to be true. On the other hand, there are many programs taught completely in English that may not offer you much academically. Even worse are the situations like the ones I described above where programs imply they can be done in English when in fact this is impossible. My point is not that you need to avoid Taiwan schools if you want this kind of education, but that you have to be careful — really careful.

October 20, 2005 | Permalink


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Scott: A little off-topic, but do you have any opinions about Chinese language grad programs attended by foreigners in Taiwan (such as NTU’s master’s program in international relations?)


Posted by: Biff Cappuccino | October 20, 2005 at 14:02

Chinese-language programs are pretty much like their counter parts back home; it all depends on the program and who your supervisor is. Some programs here are very strong and attract students from all over the world. The ones I know about are mostly technology programs. But I’m sure that there are strong programs in other fields, as well.

IR at NTU? I’m not familiar with program. You might start by checking publications of the profs teaching there. The department should have a list of publications, and many of the departments at national schools post these lists on-line.

Posted by: Scott Sommers | October 20, 2005 at 16:54

I contacted NTUST about their graduate school programs, and was told by the office that “only current students who are now abroad are eligible”. If you are a foreigner already in Taiwan, according to the secretary there, you are not eligible to get a Master’s degree. I’ll follow up on this, but it’s difficult to get things done in Taiwan…

Posted by: twocs | April 27, 2006 at 18:16

The NTUST website looks to me to be the standard one, for foreign students, that I see a most schools now:

On that page it says:
Required documents:
Applicants should submit application forms with following documents:

That does not look like a requirement for being overseas. Don’t talk to the department secretary, who may know nothing, but get right the the admissions department.

Posted by: Clyde Warden | April 30, 2006 at 16:14


Do you know of any good all english college programs in taiwan that colleges in the united states will accept as valid? Also if I go to taiwan’s college will I be able to apply as native american student later on like a spcial case.

Posted by: Cheryl | June 10, 2008 at 12:39

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